ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL REVIEW
Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke and RJ Cyler
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
As they share a similar theme and tone, I feel obliged to compare Me and Earl and the Dying Girl to The Fault in Our Stars. Both are adaptations of New York Times bestselling novels, and both show relationships booming due to a conceived connection through art (film in the former, literature in the latter). However, TFIOS made some $300m at the box office whereas METDG grossed around $9m. Though this is probably more down to the devoted fandom attached to John Green’s novel (and a much more extravagant marketing campaign) than the actual production of either film, there is a definite aura surrounding METDG that reflects the modesty and humility of the actual characters.
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s film doesn’t try to make lots of noise about its purpose or style, but would rather remain low and disservice itself in a way not too dissimilar from Greg – a senior high school student who is effectively forced by his mum to befriend a local girl named Rachel (Olivia Cooke) after she becomes diagnosed with leukaemia.
Having premiered at Sundance in 2015, there is a definite Indie-feel to the film, which in particular is achieved through Greg’s love of classic movies. He and his friend Earl make their own spoofs of such legendary films as Midnight Cowboy, Rashomon and A Clockwork Orange. The handmade nature of these films-within-a-film (stop motion animation is used for instance), coupled with a fresh-faced cast gives METDG an innate likability. Thomas Mann as Greg is lovingly adorable; making what could be a frustrating protagonist into an interesting, yet clearly flawed hero. Seeing the world through his eyes is certainly not a dud. Cooke as well is wonderful as Rachel, giving a very truthful and internalised performance that plays off of Mann’s energy brilliantly. Even though there are times when both characters are slow, hardly filled with energy, I never felt bored by the film. With such brilliant actors as Nick Offerman and Jon Bernthal also in the supporting cast, it is very easy to ignore how the plot at times feels too rushed, so that some scenes and moments aren’t as developed as they could have been.
Overall, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s direction is very free, driven clearly by the setting from how natural some of his establishing shots come across. I found it very easy to connect to Greg, and there is something about the low-key-ness of his relationship with Rachel that makes METDG feels more natural. It doesn’t go about blowing its own trumpet. This film has a clear mission to show a coming-of-age tragicomedy and yet it feels very personal yet affable. It doesn’t heed to many of the usual clichés of the genre, but with its references to the likes of Werner Herzog, one can’t help but think that this is not a mainstream film. If you do love cinema, however, then I think this is a story that you can appreciate (and maybe even pay tribute to yourself). If not, then at least watch Me and Earl and the Dying Girl just to see Hugh Jackman’s unbelievable cameo.